Each month, I get a headache or two, and have to do less, rest more and take care of myself until the moment passes. This moment can last up to about 3 days, but with some helpful tools, a little patience and insight, I can usually endure the pain without too much guilt or frustration. I’m specifically talking about hormonal headaches that only come around once a month. So men, you may want to stop reading here and forward this on to the beautiful woman in your life.
How do you know it’s a hormonal headache and not just tension, a random migraine or simple dehydration? Because you can track it! This is a special piece of advice I give most of my clients: track the problem. How often is this occurring? Write it down. How long does it last? Write it down. Use pen and paper, a journal or even your phone’s calendar app. This will dramatically help you get a grip on what’s going on with your body and what you’re up against. There’s nothing much worse than feeling out of control and like your body has taken over with no explanation.
We want to feel powerful, in charge and knowledgeable, and tracking the problem is a great first step. Once you’ve figured out how often you have to deal with this and approximately how long (days or hours) this type of headache usually lasts, then it’s much easier to manage the pain and have some say in how you get to feel.
Magnesium has been linked to hormone health for decades and there are plenty of plant-based food sources of magnesium available, in addition to supplements. Want to know which wonderfully magical food is rich in magnesium (and also manganese)? Chocolate! No wonder we crave it every month, huh ladies? But I’m not exactly recommending gorging on chocolate until you’re in a sugar haze. I’m talking organic, raw cacao with very little sweetener added, so like a chocolate bar that’s at least 75% cacao. And a high quality, vegetarian, preferably organic magnesium supplement is also a good bet, taken regularly (not a lot, just consistently).
When the pain is too much to bear and you really need relief NOW, take some over-the-counter pain medication. You don’t need to be a saint here, and no one will give you a prize for toughing it out until you puke. You can take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, whatever your preference. Always follow the suggested dosage of course (or less) and continue with all your holistic remedies at the same time.
Not mediCation… MediTation! This is also a preventive, proactive measure against severe headache pain, although it can indeed offer some immediate relief during a headache too. In fact, I recommend meditation always, as in everyday for all things for the rest of your life. It’s probably the most powerful tool to have in your arsenal and it can literally save your life.
Start with 10 minutes, or even just five if you’re the super restless type. Obviously it would be more difficult to meditate after your morning coffee, so choose a time when you’re already fairly calm and relaxed. You can even meditate for 60 seconds in the car at a red light!
Often our hormone imbalances come from an excess of stress, so naturally, meditation will turn off the noise in your head and limit all of the stress-causing thoughts that are almost chronic. Low grade chronic stress. It’s something probably all of us suffer on a daily basis, so now’s the time to quiet the mind and experience some relief.
Wintergreen and peppermint especially can help ease some of your headache pain in the moment. A little oil rubbed on the back of your neck, temples and forehead (avoid the eyes) will not only distract you from the pain temporarily, but also bring an easing up of pressure and sharpness. Find a high quality, 100% pure essential oil brand that you can trust. If it’s good enough to ingest, it’s good enough for your skin.
While I did quit caffeine years ago, as in I no longer drink it every morning to wake up and start the day, a little cup as a way to take the edge off a headache has proven to be quite a neat trick. I don’t recommend hardcore full-strength coffee or espresso, but some healthy green or white tea, or yerba mate - depending on the type of headache and when it started - can dial back the pain quite a bit and even make it go away completely. Why do you think Excedrin is caffeinated?
Clearly, you don’t want to pick up a new caffeine habit, and certainly withdrawing from caffeine causes headaches of a different sort. But a small dose of it when you can afford some extra perk can feel relieving and sweet.
You are what you eat
Soy, gluten and dairy could all be contributing to your body’s inability to maintain healthy estrogen levels. Another preventive step you can take is avoid hormone-fluctuating foods. Tofu, soy milk, bread, pasta, cow’s milk, butter and cheese can all have an effect on your hormones. Try eliminating all of these foods from your diet for one whole menstrual cycle and then gradually reintroduce them back in, one at a time. See how you feel. Experimenting like this will only lead to more insight about what helps you feel better and which foods you can definitely live without.
Appreciate the times you don’t have a headache
This may be my favorite tip because there’s no better way to perpetuate what you want than to get in a mode of appreciation. Those days and weeks when you haven’t experienced any headache pain at all - and I know there are some; you’ll see when you start tracking! - are a wonderful time to enjoy the lightness you feel. Get some extra fresh air on those days, do something fun with your loved ones and breathe a sigh of relief. Acknowledge the health coursing through your veins and say thank you.
I’d love to hear your story! Do you regularly or often get headaches? What tricks have you tried to ease the pain and get some relief? What do you think may be causing or contributing to your pain? Share in the comments below or over on Facebook.